SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The University of Rhode Island ended a lockdown after about 2.5 hours Thursday, and said despite reports of an active shooter on its campus in rural South Kingstown, an investigation revealed there was no gun or active shooter at any time.
The school canceled classes for the rest of the day Thursday, and said they would resume Friday.
Rhode Island State Police Capt. Frank Castellone said police received a call at 11:22 a.m. reporting a person with a gun. According to police, a female professor believed she heard someone in her lecture hall say, “I’m a good guy and I have a gun.”
“At that point things got crazy in the classroom,” Castellone said.
A student in the class told The Associated Press it happened in her 11 a.m. physiology class with Prof. Barbara Van Sciver. Tori Danielson said she was sitting in the back of the lecture hall in a class of more than 350 people when a commotion started diagonally in front of her.
“All of a sudden, we heard someone yell, ‘You’re a nice guy! You’re a nice guy!’ and sounding scared,” she said, adding that people started to move away from the area where the person was shouting. “Everybody started running and screaming out of the room, and our professor told us all to run. And everybody just ran out.”
Danielson said she did not hear gunshots and did not see anyone get hurt. She said she couldn’t tell whether a man or woman had been shouting or who they were talking to.
“I didn’t hear anybody say that there was a weapon, and I didn’t see if there was. I was too far away,” she said.
Law enforcement officers and police dogs entered Chafee Hall and searched it room-by-room. A toy Nerf gun was found inside a backpack that belonged to a student in the class, though police said they didn’t know if it had any connection to the incident. Police said they are also investigating whether it was connected to an on-campus game called “humans versus zombies.”
Castellone said police are continuing to interview people who were in Chafee Hall.
At least three people received minor injuries as people hurried to exit the building, URI Police Chief Stephen Baker said.
URI students Michael Wharton and Robert Ferrante were on their way to an animal science class at Chafee Hall when they saw people streaming out of the building. Wharton, an 18-year-old freshman, said he heard someone yell “Go, go! He’s got a gun.”
The two roommates then ran back to their dorm room.
“It was chaos,” Ferrante, a 19-year-old freshman, said of the scene.
Paige Comstock, a 19-year-old sophomore, was on the second floor of Chafee Hall in a journalism class when it happened. She said some of her classmates said they heard screams, though she did not. An alarm went off and a voice came over the loudspeaker warned of an emergency in the building.
“We didn’t know if it was a drill,” she said, but then an administrator told everyone to leave immediately.
As she was going out, Comstock said she saw more than a dozen police officers rushing into the building.
Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith contributed to this report from Providence.